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With the explosive growth of bandwidth demand in telecommunications networks, experts are continually seeking new ways to transmit increasingly large amounts of data in the quickest and cheapest ways possible. Photonic devices -- which convert light to electricity and vice versa -- offer an energy-efficient alternative to traditional copper network links for information transmission. Unfortunately, these devices are also almost always prohibitively pricey.

One way to bring those costs down is to make photonics compatible with the existing silicon microelectronics industry. A promising way to do that is by growing "quantum dot" lasers directly on silicon substrates, according to graduate student Alan Y. Liu of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) and his colleagues, who include UCSB professors John E. Bowers and Arthur C. Gossard. Although such quantum dot lasers have been grown on silicon before, their performance has not equaled that of quantum dot lasers grown on their native substrates, which are platforms made of similar materials as the quantum dot lasers themselves.

Now Liu and his collaborators in Bowers and Gossard's groups have demonstrated a novel quantum dot laser that not only is grown on silicon but that performs as well as similar lasers grown on their native substrates. The team will discuss its record-breaking results achieved using such lasers at this year's OFC Conference and Exposition, being held March 9-13 in San Francisco, Calif., USA.

The researchers believe the work is an important step towards large-scale photonic integration in an ultra low-cost platform.

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